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A dog-shaped robot drives across a small stream with its legs folded beneath its torso and front-facing sensors pointing forwards above the water's surface. The legs unfurled as the robot approached the shore, and the robot sprang forward, its movement the now-familiar strangeness of a robot impersonating a canine. On social media, it was announced. Ghost Robotics' Vision 60 Quadruped Uncrewed Ground Vehicle, or Q-UGV, was unveiled on June 13 as a new amphibious adaption. The Nautical Autonomous Unmanned Tail is the name of the underwater propulsion technology developed by Onyx Industries (NAUT).

The Air Force currently employs Vision 60 robots for patrols near Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. The robots can march through muck and maintain perimeters under surveillance without complaint thanks to the legs. The new maritime equipment allows for port patrols as well as accompanying soldiers in the field to locations where other machines are unable to go.

The Vision 60, like other animal-inspired robots, is partially a work of biomimicry, or the imitation of a real organism by a machine. There are a variety of reasons for this, the most important of which is that a four-legged body is extremely beneficial for traveling rough terrain alongside people. This was the driving force behind the DARPA-funded and Boston-Dynamics-built Legged Squad Support System, a gas-powered kit-carrying mule robot that the Marine Corps tested before being shelved because it was too noisy to employ in combat. In 2019, the Army investigated an all-electric legged robot called the Legged Locomotion and Movement Adaptation, or LLAMA, for similar purposes.

Modern quadrupedal robots, such as the Boston Dynamics Spot series of machines and the Ghost Robots Q-UGV, are powered by batteries and can travel considerably more silently beside people or over walkable terrain. This is the great promise of biomimicry and machines that can go where humans cannot. The ability of machines to take an animal-inspired physique and change it in ways that do not occur naturally is where they shine. The Spot variations were notable for adding a robotic leg with a gripper, allowing the machine to fling beer cans and operate doors.

The NAUT can currently maneuver a dog-shaped robot using water jet propulsion. The jet sucks in water and ejects it at a faster rate, allowing the Vision 60 to travel in a body of water with vectored thrust.

“The system is capable of propelling the robotic dog and speeds up three knots and can operate at full power using a dedicated power source for approximately 35 minutes,” according to The War Zone “The ‘tail’ can also continue to function after that by drawing electricity from the robot dog’s own internal power source.” 

The NAUT-powered Vision 60 won't win any races at 3 knots, or 3.4 mph, but it should be perfectly capable of traversing streams and calm seas. A robot's ability to go amphibious makes it handy for reconnaissance and patrols in coastal or riverine terrain, as well as maybe in the difficult terrain of a marsh or bayou. For troops and marines fighting on foot, overcoming such barriers necessitates slowing down and abandoning vehicles incapable of handling the terrain. A robot scout could keep up with soldiers and could be used to discover a safer crossing without becoming caught because its legs couldn't reach the riverbed.

Beyond the NAUT tail, Vision 60 robots may be equipped with lidar, a technology that uses a laser to survey the environment, and even weaponry, such as the sniper rifle-wielding version that debuted in 2021. Putting several modifications on the same robot may put too much strain on its battery and motors for a specific task, but the robot's capacity to switch out and add modifications means it may be effective in a number of situations.

A four-legged robot that can walk everywhere a person can is a valuable companion. A more powerful asset is a robot that can be guided to scout ahead, crossing a river ahead of a bigger force to check the landing spot is secure. The Vision 60's greater value will be determined in part by how independently it can go over land and across water, but simply following GPS waypoints printed on a control pad might allow the machine to explore ahead as silently as its electric motors would allow.
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